How men’s tennis player Scott Altmeyer balances his undefeated singles season and grad school

| Senior Sports Editor
A player in a red shirt jumps with racquet held high to hit a tennis ball.

Graduate student Scott Altmeyer returns a shot during men’s tennis’s April 1 9-0 victory over Webster University. Altmeyer has not lost a singles match this year. (Photo courtesy of Melanie Schaefer / WashU Athletics)

Scott Altmeyer’s path to Washington University’s men’s tennis team has been undeniably unique. Covid-19 left him with an extra year of NCAA eligibility after graduating from Colby College, where he used to play tennis, so when he entered the M.B.A graduate program at Wash. U, he joined the Bears. Since then, he has made a huge impact on the lineup, playing in the number two slot behind his roommate, senior Ethan Hillis. Altmeyer is 9-0 in singles so far this season, playing to a third set only in his first match of the season against a Division I competitor. He has also been playing line one in doubles, winning eight out of nine matches. Student Life sat down with Altmeyer to talk about everything from his first time holding a racket to his current season. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Student Life: What was your introduction to tennis and your first time picking up a racquet that you can remember?

Scott Altmeyer: Okay, so my first time picking up a racquet, I’d just go to a local park with my parents. My parents didn’t really play, but we’d also go with my sisters. We’d just mess around with the racquet until I took a liking to it—then, I started to do lessons, clinics and stuff like that. I took off and kept playing, and the rest of my family is probably at the same level they were when we went to the park.

SL: I feel like every good collegiate tennis player I know was a homeschool kid. Were you someone who put everything aside for tennis in high school?

SA: That’s actually a super common route in tennis. You can do the homeschool, online classes, and that type of academics; it’s actually pretty common. But I was not—I actually was overwhelmed a little bit. When I was 12, I took it really seriously. And then I took some time off because I put too much pressure on myself and I didn’t like it as much. So I played in high school—which isn’t that serious— and I wasn’t a super high recruit for college. I went to Colby College, and I got a lot better. I wouldn’t have been on Wash. U.’s radar if I was trying to play here as a freshman, but once I got to college, I enjoyed it. I worked hard, and that’s how I got better, not through the home school system.

SL: And now you’re here! And you’re a grad student, which is definitely unique. So there are a lot of differences from Colby and Wash. U.—the size, the location, amongst a whole host of others—but in terms of tennis, training and playing, what’s been different from Colby to here?

SA: The competition is really good here—we’ve got a really strong team. So I think I get challenged more in practice, and I lose more in practice, so that’s making me better. Other than that though, the teams are pretty similar. They workout in the weight room as well, and there’s an emphasis on fitness here that is also very important.

SL:  The transition from Colby to here must have been pretty interesting for you—you’re older than everyone on the team but you’re also new to Wash. U. So what have the takeaways been from that transition?

SA:  I think that experience for me has been pretty different. At Colby, I was the number one guy for three years, and I built good relationships on the team. I came through that program, and then I came to Wash. U. and I’m the new guy. But I’ve played a lot of matches, and I have a lot to contribute. So I think I find spots to share what I’ve learned, and the guys are really receptive to that. But it’s a different dynamic, where there are different leaders on the team as well. And so I play a different type of role, but I have some experience I can bring myself.

[No school, more tennis: What life has been like for men’s tennis player Daniel Li]

SL: And is it weird to compete against, or be teammates with, people you used to compete against? I know that you were in the NESCAC at Colby, but are there any moments when now you’re teammates with someone you saw from across the net? 

SA: We never played Wash. U., but I’ve seen some of these guys in the rankings. Now I’m glad I’m on their side, because I knew they were good players. Now I have them on my team.

SL: And was there any part of you that just wanted to get out of shape after you graduated from Colby? Maybe put down the racquet, especially after you didn’t even know if there was going to be a spring season? 

SA: That’s a great question. At the end of my senior year, I thought I was playing the best tennis of my life. I thought I was playing really well, and then I definitely did do that, actually. I did not come into Wash. U. in the best shape, honestly—we all got hit by it. So I came in the falI, and I had to do some work over winter break; I got in shape, ate a little better. So hopefully it pays off.

SL: It seems like it’s paid off.  Over the past 14 sets, you’ve won half of them, I think 6-0, which is absurd. Is there any fear that you’re just gonna get complacent? It seems like in the singles, you haven’t really had to play from like a super high pressure spot.

SA: The goal in practice is to not get complacent and to make sure I’m working hard. I think for me, it helps to make it a goal to win by as big of a margin as possible for that reason. Because if you let a few games slip here or there, then it starts to get tight. And once you get nervous, then the door opens for them. And if they’re not as good of a player and you get nervous, then it can be more challenging than you want.

SL: Are you someone who just loves to win or hates to lose?

SA: I used to just hate to lose, but now I try to not put so much pressure on it. So I think I like winning; at least, that’s the mindset I try and tell myself, but we’ll see where that goes later [in] the season, when I start losing. 

SL:  Based on your current record, it looks like that should be “if I start losing.” So looking at the doubles, it looks like you’ve switched around partners a bit. Who’s your favorite doubles partner on the team to play with?

SA:  Abhi [Ramireddy] has been my partner. He’s another transfer, so we got the transfer squad together. But he pulled his hamstring 10 days ago, so we’ve had Jeremy [Ouyang], a first-year, step up. Ethan [Hillis] is also a really good singles player, so it’s been fun playing with them. But hopefully we get Abhi back out there and healthy.

SL: Definitely—to reunite the transfer squad.  And I’m sure it must have been fun to play with Ethan, who is also undefeated and a powerful singles player.  

SA: Yeah, we’re good friends, roommates as well, so we were very excited to play together. And I think we fed off each other a little bit. He does a lot of things really well, and I think we both excel in returning, so when we were not serving, we had a good chance of breaking serve.  

SL: So what’s next? Have you looked at your schedule—what does the postseason look like for you all? 

SA: That’s a good question, and I don’t know much about it.  I’m hoping there’s going to be a national championship, and hopefully an individuals’ nationals to compete in as well.  But if we could get a chance to compete as a team for the national championship, that would be awesome. This is—by far—the best team I’ve ever been on, and I think it’s one of Wash. U.’s stronger teams in recent years. It would be great to compete for the national championship.  


Other articles from the Student Life sports team:

We ranked the University Athletic Association mascots three different ways

Why new NCAA transfer rules could ruin college basketball 

Emma Walter, a cross country walk-on, is unbeaten so far this track season

 

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